At age 54, Trisha Yearwood says she’s living her best life. “I mean, I never dreamed I would have a cooking show,” she said of her Food Network hit Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. “And making music is my favorite thing in the world. It’s my calling.” But for Trisha, nothing’s surpassed her 13-year marriage to fellow country music star Garth Brooks.

“I’m madly in love with him,” she exclusively revealed to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “We were such good friends for such a long time [before we married], so I think at the end of the day, it’s the friendship and the respect that sustains you.”

Two of her greatest loves, Garth, 56, and music, came together with an autobiographical song they wrote, “For the Last Time,” found on her new Frank Sinatra tribute album, Let’s Be Frank, Trisha’s first full-length solo work since 2007. On the eve of its release, Closer caught up with the three-time Grammy winner and best-selling cookbook author to discuss her next big project, life with Garth and why being a stepmom to Garth’s three daughters has been one of the greatest joys of her life — scroll down to read our exclusive Q&A interview with Trisha! 

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What inspired you to sing Sinatra songs?

I’ve wanted to make a record of standards for 20 years. I did a 100th birthday tribute to Sinatra — that’s when the idea came to me to focus on him. I had a lot of fun in the studio, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had that much fun!

How did your original song come about?

I had this title, “I’m in Love for the Last Time,” and Garth said, “I don’t know what to do with it.” He started singing this melody that sounded like it was from another era. When he writes, he’s singing all the time, so he’d be working on a lyric, I’d throw something in and over a month, we got it written. It represents us.

How so?

It’s saying, “Now I understand why other stuff didn’t work because this is what was meant to be.” We hike, we cook, we just like to be together, and I was never that girl. I was always, “Hmmm, no offense, but I don’t need to hang with anybody.” Garth and I just celebrated our 13th anniversary, and when we got married, we decided we weren’t going to be apart. My happiness is this relationship.

What makes him the perfect guy for you?

A lot of times — I’ve been very guilty of this — you get way down the road in a relationship before you are friends. And you eventually go, “I’m not even sure I really like this person.” But Garth and I have always had a very deep respect for each other.

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How has being friends first changed things?

Because we were each married before and we’ve been friends a long time, you might know some things you might not tell somebody you’re dating, so it’s a blessing and a curse — he knows everything about me.

What are your favorite things about him?

He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met, and he is fun, and when he walks into the room, the party’s on! He makes everybody happy and that’s what he does for me. He walks in and I light up. When people talked this way, I used to think, oh, whatever, that’s not real and it’s so sappy. And now I’m that sappy person.

How do you complement each other?

We’re both very independent, and we’re in a business that is very “me”-driven, so it’s easy to get lost in “it’s all about me.” You have to remember: I might be tired when I get home, but I still have a responsibility to make sure he’s good and has what he needs, and he does the same for me. There’ve been days where I don’t and vice versa, but for people who are strong-willed like us, it’s a lesson we’ve learned. I’m proud of where we are after 13 years and I can’t wait to see where we’ll be in 13 more.

Is there ever any competitiveness?

For the first few years, I did have a little chip on my shoulder. Like, “I don’t want to get lost,” because there’s Garth and then there’s everybody else, which he hates me to say, but it’s true. I’ve sold 15 million records, but when you’re married to a guy who’s sold like 170 million records, it’s like, “I’m sort of the failure in the relationship.”

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Over the years, I’ve learned that I don’t need to fight for my place; I just need to be me. I’m so proud of him having basically retired to raise the girls and to watch him come back and have more people coming to his shows than he did in the ’90s, I’m just proud. We want each other to succeed, and there’s friendly competition in a good way. If I go into the studio, I’m trying to impress him and vice versa.

How did you celebrate your anniversary?

Garth has three daughters [Taylor, August and Allie] who are now grown, so we got married as a family — they had to accept me, we all exchanged vows. So our anniversary isn’t a romantic getaway. It’s, “If these girls can get together, we get together.” So we did, and we try to every year.

Did you want kids of your own?

I was 41 [when we wed] and could’ve had a child, but the ship was getting ready to sail out of port. So we made the decision not to, mainly because of Garth’s unique relationship with the girls and [his first wife] Sandy. If they slept at our house, the next day their mom would pick them up to take them to school. Then we’d have them after school, and she’d have them at night and Garth would pick them up the next day. If we had a child, the siblings were going to leave every other day, so we chose not to.

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What’s it like to be a stepmom?

I never felt like I had to birth a child to be a mom, so it’s been one of the greatest joys of this relationship. To kind of be a bonus mom, learn my way and see them grow into beautiful women has been something I didn’t know I needed and that I can’t imagine living without. I’m so grateful.

What else are you grateful for?

My sister, who’s on the cooking show with me a lot, is the person I love to share it all with. She’s known it’s been my dream to sing since I was 5.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

I’m from a very close-knit family, so my biggest fear was losing my parents. My dad passed away about 13 years ago and my mom about seven years ago. There are days you want to curl up in a ball. It was really tough and some days it still is, but I’m a spiritual person. I believe they’re with me and in heaven, guiding me in this journey, and that’s what gets me through.

For more on Trisha Yearwood, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!